The Pen

Open Letter to Southern Poverty Law Center Regarding FBC Orlando

Leaders at the Southern Poverty Law Center,
I am familiar with your work. According to your website, you are the premier U.S. non-profit organization monitoring the activities of domestic hate groups. You track track more than 1,600 extremist groups operating across the country. You publish investigative reports, train law enforcement officers and share key intelligence, and offer expert analysis to the media and public.
It is for this reason that I write you. As an evangelical Christian I often disagree with your assessments, but I agree with others. For example, I whole-heartily agree with your classification of Faithful Word Baptist Church led by Steven Anderson, the organization led Christian Identity preacher Thomas Robb, and Westboro Baptist Church led by the Phelps family as being hate groups. Good on you. People shouldn’t use religion as a means to hatefully condemn people without giving them any semblance of hope or good news.
This is why I petition you to add First Baptist Church of Orlando, Florida to your roster of hate groups.
On June 14, 2016, FBC Orlando – led by pastor, David Uth – hosted a unity event with LGBTQ individuals from the surrounding community. The church embraced the community, affirmed them in their sexual orientation and sexual behavior, and without divulging anything resembling what we evangelicals call the “Gospel,” engaged in a religious practice of “laying hands” on them in affirmation.
I fully recognize that at first glance you may look at this as quite the opposite of hateful. But please, hear me out. You need to understand the confessed beliefs of SBC Orlando. Once you do, you’ll realize that they are a hate group of epic proportions.
Under their belief statements on the church website, they state “Mankind’s fall has incurred both physical and spiritual death on all until there is forgiveness and salvation by the grace of God.” Spiritual death, by the way, is translated in evangelical parlance as “hell,” a place of eternal conscious torment. Similarly, the church confesses on their website that “the salvation of lost and sinful mankind is a free gift of God’s grace apart from human works, based solely upon Christ’s vicarious and atoning death, effected by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, and received only through faith in the person and finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross.”
Likewise, the church is Southern Baptist, and affirms the Southern Baptist Faith and Message, which says of homosexuality, “Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God’s unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race.”
To be clear, I do not believe that makes them a hate group. I also agree with those things. However, because this is what they confess, that (1) sin brings the penalty of hell (2) homosexuality is one such sin that brings the penalty of hell and (3) salvation from sin can only be found through faith in the work of Jesus, to affirm homosexuals in their perceived sin, to not follow through on their commitment to preach the Gospel in relation to Article XI of their church’s belief statement, which is evangelism, and to violently and blatantly remain quiet in regards to what they believe is the eternal solution to their impending damnation, it is fair to say that what transpired on June 14 was unbelievable hatred demonstrated toward their LGBT neighbors.
Yes, I realize that you may consider the belief statement of the SBC and FBC Orlando to amount to fiction, but you also consider the beliefs of Steven Anderson, Thomas Robb, and Fred Phelps to be fiction. Clearly, you don’t believe that those of African descent are less than human as does Robb, and neither do you believe homosexuals should be stoned, as does Anderson. Neither do you believe that “God hates fags,” as does Westboro.  And yet, you recognize that because they hold these beliefs and act accordingly, their so-called “ministries” amount to hate. Likewise, you may not agree with the three beliefs of FBC Orlando I highlighted above, but they do profess these beliefs in writing. And yet, they chose to treat the LGBTQ community in a way that – if FBC Orlando is correct – would send these individuals straight to hell. No matter how you cut it, that is hateful.
Now, it could be that FBC Orlando doesn’t believe their own belief statements and don’t believe their denomination’s faith statement. Perhaps their website is outdated or perhaps they left the Southern Baptist Convention and didn’t notify anyone. If that is the case, I’ll happily retract this letter for jumping to conclusions. However if they still affirm these things, their treatment of the LGBTQ in their midst was atrociously Hitleresque in their coldheartedness and antipathy toward this subset of Orlando culture. It was very, very hateful for them to behave this way.
I think you’ll find that after reviewing the facts in this case that you’ll see that if FBC Orlando truly holds to their professed convictions, their hatred toward the LGBT community is exceedingly hateful and they should be classified as a hate group accordingly.
Evangelicals like myself truly care for the LGBT community and would never desire to hurt them eternally in such a condemning and damning way.
Thank you,
JD Hall
Fellowship Baptist Church, Montana.